New data from the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) reveals that moving the UK's peat ban forward from 2030 to 2026 could have detrimental effects on both the environment and the economy.
The shortened timeline could undermine the government's Environmental Improvement Plan by reducing the time available for comprehensive trials of alternative crop production methods.
Impact on Plant and Tree Availability
Accelerating the peat ban could result in an immediate shortfall of around 100 million trees and plants. This would adversely affect public parks, gardens, and urban green spaces throughout the UK.
Additionally, a third of suppliers to public green areas foresee disruptions in their supply contracts, and garden shops predict product shortages by the year 2027.
An independent economic assessment by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the HTA, suggests that fast-tracking the peat ban to 2026 could cause a staggering £541 million drop in Gross Value Added (GVA) and a £124 million fall in tax income. The study also warns of the potential loss of up to 12,000 jobs.
This information emerges as the government's one-year anniversary approaches for its response to the consultation on the use of peat in horticulture.
James Barnes, the HTA Chairman, emphasises the need for a balanced approach rather than rushing into decisions. He states that the new economic analysis, along with their impact assessment, confirms their earlier position: hastily advancing the peat ban will have worse environmental and economic outcomes than sticking to the initially proposed 2030 deadline.
The HTA argues that the environmental damage caused by advancing the ban outweighs the benefits of carbon savings. They advocate for a measured approach that allows the industry to transition away from peat without penalties.
The Complexity of Transition
While the use of peat in retail compost has already decreased significantly, the transition for professional nurseries is more complicated. The HTA suggests that an exemption until 2030 would provide adequate time for trials and transitions to peat-free alternatives, without compromising plant health.
The HTA calls for a nuanced approach to the peat ban, considering the complexities of finding suitable alternatives and the potential economic and environmental repercussions of a rushed decision.